Growing a lemon tree? Learn about the ideal lemon tree climate and how to get lemons to grow in less than perfect places. Check out the lemon tree tips below!
Lemons are among the most popular citrus fruits, largely owing to their sheer number of uses. From everyday cooking to garnishing cocktails with lemon zest, to using citrus in cleaning solutions, it's one of the most versatile fruits available.
That said, that availability often relies on having access to storebought lemons sourced from Florida, California, or abroad. Sure, it'd be nice to be able to raise your own lemons at home, but can they withstand cold snaps and unpredictable weather?
Well, while there is definitely an ideal lemon tree climate, they may actually be more adaptable than you might suspect.
The Ideal Lemon Tree Climate Mimics Their Native Range
Lemons originated from Southeast Asia and have been cultivated there for thousands of years. As such, they acclimate best to tropical and subtropical environments, and most growers try to mimic those conditions as much as possible.
Specifically, this means that they thrive best in temperatures between 77 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. However, they can tolerate sporadic temperature spikes. For example, they grow well in Florida despite high temperatures being known to exceed 100 degrees in the summertime.
They also prefer lower elevations, growing best between sea level and 2,450 feet in subtropical regions, or up to 5,250 feet in the tropics. Lemon trees also benefit from sunny conditions. Though they can survive shady conditions, receiving less than full sun for six months or more will significantly hamper fruit production.
Lemon trees also get fairly thirsty. For significant fruit production, they need between 35 and 120 inches of annual rainfall.
Below that 35-inch mark, they usually need irrigation to bear fruit. Though they are known to thrive in the Mediterranean where the dry season can last for four months or more.
All of this taken together, it would appear like lemon trees are somewhat finicky. But years of work have produced methods that encourage their growth outside of their preferred habitat.
Raising Lemon Trees Outside of Their Ideal Range
Although regions like Florida and California are considered prime citrus land, lemons have been successfully cultivated as far north as New England. There are a number of methods that can help give your lemons the best chance to succeed, depending on the severity of the environment. In general, though, the keys are irrigation and frost protection.
Keeping lemon trees healthy and well-watered helps them to survive a variety of conditions, including frost. It is also important to fertilize and prune them early in the season. This stimulates growth and encourages fruit to develop before cold temperatures arrive.
But preventative measures can only do so much. Consistent cold temperatures will kill lemon trees, no matter what.
To determine how long your tree can survive in the cold, we use the rule of 10s. On average, a lemon tree can survive for 10 hours in 10-degree weather, 20 hours in 20-degree weather, and so on.
In regions where extreme cold is common, this means having to grow your lemon tree in a container. When weather conditions exceed that rule of 10's guideline, you need to be able to move your lemon tree indoors to protect it.
Raising Citrus Within Your Environment
Though they're not known to be hardy, it is possible to raise fresh lemons outside of a natural lemon tree climate. All it takes is preparation and the ability to adapt.
Fortunately, many varieties can be grown to full-size within containers, allowing you to move them as necessary. Some are even bred to be cold-resistant.
For example, consider our Meyer lemon trees and Eureka lemon Trees. Shipped in a one-gallon container, these trees are hardy, can be pruned to a manageable size, and will bear fruit within one year if properly tended. Check them out here.